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Closure of commercial fishery causes seafood price increase

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Posted at 3:37 PM, Mar 26, 2022

Two humpback whales became entangled in Dungeness crab gear near the Monterey Peninsula within the last two weeks, leading to the closure of the commercial Dungeness crab fishery from south of the Sonoma/Mendocino border spanning to the U.S./Mexico border.

"It's pretty devastating because the best crabbing here is generally in the springtime," said Morro Bay commercial fisherman, Bill Blue.

Animal rights groups say the crabbing gear easily wrap around whales and sea turtles.

"Especially in the spring when whales and sea turtles are migrating back to California to feed off of the coast they're at risk of getting entangled," said Catherine Kilduff, Center for Biological Diversity Senior Attorney.

Bill Blue has worked out of Morro Bay as a commercial fisherman since 1975, and says it's harder than ever to make a living as a fisherman in California . This suspension isn't helping, especially during their most profitable season.

"It could be up to 35-40 percent of my income for the year annually," said Blue.

The suspension is hurting many Central Coast families that rely on fishing for income.

"It affects, I’d say 15-18 local families," said Blue.

Blue says he is also concerned about the whales and their well being, but he feels this suspension is unfair and politically motivated.

"It's a pretty unjust thing. It's all political. It has nothing to do with saving the whales. The shipping industry kills a lot of whales. They got a lot of money. They're not going to go after them," said Blue.

The suspension is causing the price of Dungeness crab on the Central Coast to skyrocket.

"Our best fishing is usually right now. So, unfortunately cutting a few months off the fishing season means no access to local crabs, which means off local boats which means a cheaper price," said Giovanni DeGarimore, Giovanni's Fish Market Owner.

The Dungeness crab is a best-selling item at Giovanni's Fish Market, even with prices pushing $20 per pound customers are still lining up.

"People that love crab, love crab. I don't think any price would stop them," said DeGarimore.